Obama: Suggestions of Enormous Polarization In U.S. 'Just Not True'

Obama works to downplay suggestions of widespread turmoil in America.

July 9, 2016, 1:27 PM

— -- President Obama today sought to ease concerns over recent turmoil in the United States, saying suggestions of enormous polarization are "just not true."

"You’re not seeing riots and you're not seeing police going after people who are protesting peacefully," Obama said at the top of a news conference at the NATO Summit. "As tough as hard as depressing the loss of life was this week, we’ve got a foundation to build on."

Since his arrival in Warsaw Friday, Obama has been forced to juggle high tensions over two police-involved shootings in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis, as well as the brutal sniper attack in Dallas Thursday night that left five police officers dead with international issues such as the uncertainty in the global economy triggered by the United Kingdom's vote to leave the EU and ongoing concerns about terrorism.

The White House announced Friday that he would cut his weekend trip to Spain short and visit Dallas sometime early next week at the invitation of the city's mayor.

Speaking without notes, in front of a standing-room-only hall packed with international press, he delivered a message of an America united in condemnation of the attack on police in Dallas, as well as the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Sterling, both of whom were shot by police in separate incidents.

"We just have to have confidence that we can build on those better angels of our nature," Obama said. "We have to make sure that all of us step back, do some reflection and make sure the rhetoric that we engage in is constructive and not destructive."

Obama urged Americans to separate the actions of the Dallas shooter from peaceful activists who are concerned about recent police shootings.

He then praised the "overwhelming majority of Americans" who he said "have reacted with empathy and understanding" to the past week.

The president stopped short of labeling the shooting in Dallas as a hate crime or domestic terrorism, saying "it's very hard to untangle the motives of this shooter."

"I'll leave that to psychologists and people who study these kinds of incidents," Obama said. "I think the danger is that we somehow suggest the act of a troubled individuals speaks to some larger political statement across the country."

And despite some criticism of his initial reaction to the attack, the president doubled down on his statement injecting gun control into the debate over the deadly attack as well as the deaths in Minneapolis and Baton Rouge.

"If you care about safety of our police officers, you can't set aside the gun issue and pretend that that's irrelevant," Obama said. "Part of what's creating tensions between communities and police is the fact that police have a really difficult time in communities where they know guns are everywhere."

He made a comparison between the level of gun violence in the U.S. as opposed to that in countries that have more stringent guns laws in many countries, particularly among NATO members.

"If you look at the pattern of death and violence and shootings that we have experienced over the course of the last year, or ten years, we are unique among advanced countries in the scale of violence we experience," he said.

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